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UCLA falls to 0-5 after just being edged out by tenth ranked Washington in a tight one, 31-24. For UCLA, it’s their first 0-5 start since 1943, but it was by far their best game of the season. I’m sure it’s frustrating for both the players and the fans to see this Bruin team unable to pick up any wins, but this game was a significant improvement from what we saw from them early in the season. There’s real progress going on here, and if this game is any indication of what’s to come, Bruin nation should be excited about the future.

UCLA Bruins Game Day Grades – Week 6

Offense

This was easily the best game of the season for UCLA’s offense. Washington came into this game with the best scoring defense in the country, having not given up a passing touchdown since the opening drive of week 1. The Washington offense, although unspectacular, mostly played the game on their terms. But the UCLA offense, save for a few miscues here and there, stayed with them for just about every step of the way.

For the first time all season, this really looked like a Chip Kelly offense. The execution was crisp, clean, and tight. The Bruins played with tremendous pace and rhythm, getting up to the line and snapping the ball as soon as they got set. Remember how early in the season, this team couldn’t even get lined up and kept getting false starts because they weren’t on the same page with the snap count?

This game had them looking like an actual offense—one that was dictating the pace of the game on their terms and attacking, rather than struggling to execute the basics. I really liked the tempo and rhythm that they played with in this game. The execution was as good as we’ve seen all year. And when the Bruins weren’t snapping the ball right away, they would go with a quick dummy count and then have a “check with me” playcall from the sideline, another thing we hadn’t really seen this year. Overall, if UCLA can sustain this kind of execution on offense, they will give themselves opportunities to win football games moving forward.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson

Game Stats: 27/38, 272 Yards, 2 TD, 1 INT

Everything I said about the offense starts with DTR at quarterback. He’s a guy I’ve been hard on for much of this season. He’s awfully young and the inexperience has shown, which is why I wanted Wilton Speight to start once he came back healthy. For much of the year, DTR has held this team and this offense back.

This was not the case today, as Thompson-Robinson in his 4th career start had by far his best game as a Bruin. The offense put up a season high 24 points. Thompson-Robinson had a season high in completions, yards, and touchdowns. Coming into this game absolutely horrendous on third down, the Bruins were a very solid 8/14 on the day. DTR had a shaky start with a terrible interception, but after that, outside of a few miscues here and there, he looked as good as he’s looked all year. UCLA’s third possession was a big time drive for Thompson-Robinson. The touchdown to Theo Howard was as good as it gets. He looked off the defense, threw on time, and fit the ball perfectly into a very tight window.

A lot of things stood out from DTR’s game today; namely, his poise, aggressiveness, and decisiveness. He showed no hesitance firing the ball into tight windows. He looked a lot more comfortable processing defenses. He was able to comfortably move through progressions, and the instances of him predetermining throws and targeting the wrong receivers were few and far between, especially compared to what we’d seen from him early in the season. His pocket presence also seemed much improved. There were multiple instances where pressure was coming off the edge, but he was able to sense it, move out of the pocket, and get rid of the ball prior to being hit. The Bruins finally found their intermediate passing game in this one, and it was thanks to the improved play of DTR. Overall, this was a big step forward for him, and I’m sure it will build his confidence moving forward.

Game Day Grade: A-

Current Draft Stock: Underclassmen

Caleb Wilson – Tight End

Game Stats: 8 Rec, 102 Yards, 1 TD

This was the game we were waiting for from Caleb Wilson, as the Bruins were finally able to get him involved in this passing attack, doing so all over the field. Wilson had his third career 100-yard receiving day, his first on the season. He caught passes short, intermediate, and deep, ranging from flats, too skinny posts, to crossers, to seams. Perhaps his best play was his touchdown, a ball thrown to him short of the end zone. After securing the catch, he put his head forward and powered his way into the end zone, breaking multiple tackles on the way.

Game Day Grade: A

Current Draft Stock: 3rd Round

Andre James – Offensive Lineman

The running game has been way more productive in the past two games than it was early in the season. Kelly seems to have found a guy he likes in Joshua Kelley with back to back 100-yard games. The return of Boss Tagaloa at center seems to have made an impact. And DTR was rarely under pressure in this game. Perhaps the offensive line struggles of early in the season are gone? Only time will tell, but these guys certainly seem to be going in the right direction. As for James, he looks good in both run and pass protection. He still gives up the occasional pressure, but overall his play has been solid.

Game Day Grade: A-

Current Draft Stock: 4th Round

Defense

Washington did what Washington does in this game. They weren’t explosive, up tempo, or dominant, but they were always in control. They had long drives, they kept drives alive on third down, and they, despite the score, generally played the game on their terms. The one area of weakness that stands out most in this defense is 1 on 1 matchups deep down the field. It wasn’t as much a factor in this game because Washington isn’t really that kind of offense, but they still got burned a couple times with those kinds of plays. Overall, it was a solid effort by the Bruins defense, but they’re clearly still a work in progress.

Jaelan Phillips – Edge Rusher

Phillips didn’t play today, as it’s becoming clear that whatever injury he has (and there may be multiple), it’s not something that’s going away easily. Kelly’s been mum on the matter, but there are whispers that he may be done for the year. Without him, the Bruins were unable to get pressure on Browning in the pocket. Initial coverage was often good, but Browning just had too much time. There were multiple instances where he was able to scramble for first down yardage after scanning the field.

Game Day Grade: N/A

Current Draft Stock: 3rd Round

Adarius Pickett – Safety

Game Stats: 16 Tackles (9 Solo, 7 Asst), 1 INT

Pickett is starting to build up quite the resume for the year. He’s 2nd in the Pac 12 and 7th in the NCAA in total tackles per game. He has four double-digit tackle performances in 2018 alone. And his 16 tackles against Washington were a career high. I’ve been giving him a lot of flak for his disappearance in pass coverage, but he was even able to snag his first INT of the season on a ball that Jake Browning sailed over the middle. Pickett was all over the field against Washington. He played a great game and continues to show a really solid tackling technique. Even moving at high speed, he almost always wraps up the ballcarrier. In the 4th quarter, he had a nice, sound tackle when WR Aaron Fuller caught a screen out wide. After weaving his way through the defense, Pickett tackled him close to the first down marker. Had Pickett not made this tackle, Fuller may have gone to the house.

Game Day Grade: A

Current Draft Stock: 2nd Round

Looking Ahead

This was a big-time game for the Bruins with major improvement in just about every facet. Fans should feel good about this Chip Kelly led team moving forward. We’ll see if he can keep it up, but he showed us this past week that he absolutely still knows how to coach.

Cary Krongard

Author Cary Krongard

UCLA and USC Beat Writer for Sports Al Dente

More posts by Cary Krongard

Sports Al Dente 2019

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